As a society, we sit more now than we ever have. Between work, school, commutes, and relaxing during your free time, there is a lot of sitting going on. Add a pandemic to it when many people are out of work or now working from home and the amount of sitting being done has increased dramatically.
(Or perhaps you are having an issue similar to mine: I used to stand whenever I was on the computer, sitting for maybe 2-3 hours a day (and that included eating meals), but an injury to my foot caused me to have to sit more than I was used to…significantly more! The increased time sitting over the span of 6 weeks brought to the forefront all the negative impacts it has on the body. Within 2-3 weeks, several of the issues began to pop up.)
The postures we often end up in when sitting contribute to a number of aches and pains, and even injuries, that we deal with, including but not limited to neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, hip pain, and foot and ankle issues.
I’ve known a number of people that went from very active jobs to sitting jobs and within a couple months developed back pain when training. Injuries due to the effects of sitting are not rare!
When we sit, especially at computers, without realizing it we begin slouching, rounding our shoulders forward more, maybe resting on the elbows, and the head protrudes forward. Before you know it, you are a hunched over mess! Even knowing as much as I do, I still catch myself doing this when at the computer.
So why exactly do all these issues pop up? Let’s dive in….
Neck pain: When you have good posture and the head is on the resting at the top of the neck like it should be, it doesn’t weigh too much. The ligaments and muscles are made to support it there. The more forward the head protrude, the more gravity pulls it down and therefore the heavier the head becomes, relatively speaking. The joints, ligaments, and muscles can only support it there for so long. Eventually, the increased stress and strain results in pain.
Shoulder pain: It is so easy to let your back and shoulders round when sitting. It commonly occurs during other times as well, but it tends to be worse when sitting. The more you stay in that position, the harder it is for your body to remember where it is supposed to be when you begin doing tasks with your arms When the shoulders stay forward, the mechanics of the shoulder are thrown off, eventually creating impingement issues and those ‘all too common’ rotator cuff tears that everyone fears.
Back pain: Sitting for long periods can cause the joints in the spine to get stiff and the muscles to tighten up. Essentially, the body will only maintain the movement that you are requiring of it. If most of what you do during the day is sit in one place with the back rounded, it will think it doesn’t need to maintain the other motions and so it won’t. The stiffer things get in the back, the more discomfort you have and more you increase your risk of injury when you do try to move outside that range.
Hip issues: These are seen most often when it comes to function. If you sit with your hips at 90 degrees (or perhaps even less than that), your hips get used to that position. When you later challenge yourself to squat to a full depth for either a workout or for daily function, you find that you aren’t able to. That then turns into you believing, ‘well, I’m not supposed to be able to do that anyway.’ Truth is, everyone should be able to move through a full range of motion (assuming no major injuries or defects are keeping it from happening). Because you don’t challenge that motion regularly, you lose it!
Foot and ankle issues: You can even develop foot and ankle issues when you sit. Besides just the fact that you are often wearing shoes when sitting, you are also not using the foot and ankle muscles when you are sitting. Along with that, many times when we sit, your ankles are in slight dorsiflexion (toes slightly pointed). This can result in mobility deficits in the ankle, because once again, if you don’t put yourself in positions frequently to challenge motions, you lose them.
Now, with all that said, I understand that some people just don’t have the luxury of being able to stand for their job and some people have really long commutes for work. So, how do you counteract or minimize the effects of sitting? Glad you asked!
First off, be more attentive of your posture. Every time you look at your phone or the time, do a quick assessment of your posture and reset it to a taller, more upright position if you need to.
Secondly, get up more to walk. You need to rest your brain and our eyes anyway, so why not get up and walk around a bit? Every hour, get up and move around for 5-10 minutes. Set a timer if you need to so you don’t get engrossed in what you are doing and lose track of time.
And finally, stop being complacent. Challenge your movement when not sitting. Find those movements you are unable to do because your body won’t move there and start doing necessary things to move better. Not sure how to go about this? Find a professional who does!
Are you wanting to move better so you can perform better? Schedule a free consultation call with Brianne to discuss your situation and find out what you need to do to solve your problems!
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